Tired of reading a bajillion books to try and find out enough information to play this game? Can’t blame you. This guide is being written as a quick and dirty run-down to playing one of the Fera, which is a fancy way of saying a shapeshifter that isn’t a werewolf (Garou). If you’ve been playing White Wolf since it came out, chances are, you don’t need this guide. This is mainly intended for players who are new to the theme and want to take on the raven shapeshifters, also known as the Corax.
All of the information you should need to play a newbie Corax is presented on this page. Anything else? Well, you can learn it as you go along ICly. That’s what the ravens do. They learn. Constantly. They dig up information, they spy, they scout, they poke their beaks into everything they can poke their beaks into, but it’s not at all unreasonable for a newbie to be a little less sure of what’s going on than the seasoned folks.
What is a Corax?
A Corax, simply put, is a shapeshifter who can change his or her body into that of a raven. (As a side note, those who can shapeshift into wolves are called Garou.) They are the youngest race of shapeshifters of Gaia (the Earth goddess who is Mother to all life), tasked with keeping tabs on every other shapeshifter race, whereas other races of shapeshifters have other roles they fulfill for her. The Garou (werewolves), for example, are her Warriors. The Gurahl (werebears) were her healers, the Bastet (werecats) are her Eyes and Ears (and secret keepers), and so on. More info on the other shapeshifters will come later.
The Corax do their job very, very well. Each Corax has the drive to learn as much as possible about the world around them, and they are expected to fulfill their duty by telling everyone around them what they need to know. So Corax have a well-deserved reputation of being nosy, noisy, chatty, talkative, blabbermouthy and all around loud and raucous. They talk so much that some of the other races wish they’d just shut up. But although they might be talkative, MOST Corax also know when to shut up, and they won’t give away important secrets to those who shouldn’t have them. For example, no, most won’t give up knowledge of the most important Corax Rites (magical ceremonies) to undeserving enemies or to other shapeshifters. They’re talkative. Not stupid.
Corax also have a notable talent for stealing things. So in generic fantasy terms, you can consider a Corax to be a Scout or a Thief.
As you might expect, being raven shapeshifters, the Coraxes have numerous perks and flaws that come with their existence. First, the perks:
- You can shapeshift into a raven and fly. You can shapeshift into a man or a woman. Sadly, you can’t fly in human form.
- Most of your Gifts (super powers fueled by Gnosis or Rage, taught to you by the spirits) enhance your capabilities as a super-spy or super-scout or super-thief.
- You are pretty much free to do what you want as long as you follow some basic tenets of Corax society. There are no complicated social mores to learn. You are a free and independent spirit.
- Coraxes are one of two breeds of Fera (the other is the Nagah, the were-snakes) that can never be possessed by Banes (Wyrm demons, see below) and made into fomori (Bane-possessed beings, be they human, animal, or supernatural). Why? Because the Rite of the Fetish Egg that creates a Corax involves the “parent” Corax binding his/her spirit to the young, fledgling Corax, preventing any further attempts at possession. In other words, every Corax is already possessed by his/her parent. More info on the Rite of the Fetish Egg is below.
And the downsides:
- There are three basic forms that a Corax can shapeshift into. The raven (AKA, the Corvid form), the human (AKA, the Homid form) and the war form (AKA, the Crinos form). Being a raven or a human is pretty awesome. Being in the war form is really awkward, embarrassing, humiliating and cumbersome. You can fly in the war form just fine, but trying to walk is very clumsy, requiring hopping and some quick balance work. You also look ridiculous, like a big, black, overgrown raven-chicken man. The Corax only take the war form when it is of DIRE NECESSITY. When it’s life or death, and not a moment before. Because there is no dignity in your war form, unlike pretty much every other damn shapeshifter type on the planet.
- In all sorts of legends and folklore, werewolves are taken down with silver. In Werewolf: the Apocalypse, that still holds true. Silver is bad for the Garou and for a whole lot of other Fera too, thanks to their ties to Luna, the moon, but not for the Corax. For the Corax, the bane of their existence is gold, thanks to their ties to Helios, the sun. Silver moonlight, golden sunlight. Get it? Good.
- Corax suck at combat. Seriously. Coraxes just plain suck suck suck at combat, especially when compared to the Garou and even some of the Kinfolk (humans who cannot shapeshift but still get some supernatural perks because they’re family to shapeshifters). This cannot be emphasised enough, because Coraxes share some traits with ravens and birds in general. They have hollow bones, for one thing, which keeps their body weight low so they can fly more easily. They also have next to no Gifts to help them in combat (just a couple here and there), and when they shift up to the war form, they don’t get too many bonuses to their stats. As one would expect, most Corax get by on their wits and sneakiness. Those who can’t manage usually die young.
What do Coraxes Look Like?
Coraxes have a certain look to them, depending on what form they’re in at the time.
- Homid – The human form will generally have black hair, black eyes, and pale skin, especially if the Corax is of European stock. Even the Native American variety of Corax will have paler skin than his brethren, though he’ll retain the ruddy undertones. Coraxes don’t bulk up, since a lot of extra weight makes flying difficult, ensuring their forms are willowy, lithe, bony, and lean-muscled. A lot of Coraxes like to dress in dark clothes, looking like a bunch of underfed Goths. But not always. There’s no set uniform or anything, of course, but the Gothic look is pretty popular among the raven folk. Coraxes also generally tend to have aquiline noses (but not always), and the ring fingers tend to be longer than the middle fingers on their hands (but not always). Silver jewellery is also pretty damn popular, since it’s so shiny and silver is a useful weapon against most other shapeshifters.
- Corvid – The raven form is … pretty much a raven. A big bird with glossy, black feathers, a black beak, black eyes, black feet. Generally, up in North America, it’s going to be the Common Raven that you see, though in other countries you’ll see Coraxes that are other species of ravens. Coraxes are generally larger than normal ravens, though, trending towards the size of eagles.
- Crinos – The war form looks just plain old ridiculous. Feathers and beak on a human body, with winged arms that end in talons, and big bird, clawed, digitigrade feet. You can’t walk well, but you can fly, at least. It’s hard to talk. This is just not a form that a Corax takes without it being life or death.
What is the History of the Coraxes?
If you want to know the whole history of the Coraxes, just go read the Corax book. But a lot of it is ancient history, and a lot of it doesn’t really apply to today, and the newbie Coraxes don’t have to have this stuff memorized coming out the starting gates. So to make a long story short, here are some bullet-pointed tidbits that most Corax, even the younglings, know off-hand:
- Back in caveman times, the Garou started culling the population of humanity to keep their numbers down. It was not a happy time, and it was called the Impergium. As a defense, humanity developed a genetic fear of Shifters, leading to a reaction called the Delirium whenever their descendants saw a Shifter in its Crinos form. Basically, when a human sees a war formed Garou, they go completely insane with terror or rage, and they often forget or rationalise what they’ve just seen after the moment passes. Humans experience this around Corax too, though to a less severe degree. Although the Impergium eventually ended, the Delirium lived on in human DNA, absent only in Kinfolk.
- Thousands of years ago, there was a war called the War of Rage. Basically, some shit went down, and the Garou went completely homicidal and started slaughtering all the other Fera. The Coraxes escaped most of the Garou’s wrath by playing both sides of the war. They were informants for the Garou, pointing out minor tidbits of information that the Garou found somewhat helpful. Then they also turned around and told the Fera when the Garou were coming, and they smuggled Kinfolk into hiding. For this reason, the Garou and the Corax get on pretty well with each other. Fera and the Corax? No one else really knows they played both sides, except for the Bastet (werecats), who remain distrustful. But then again… birds and cats never got on well anyway.
- There was a second War of Rage that happened when the Garou from Europe came over to America for the first time. They started slaughtering more Fera over there, and the Europeans did war with the Native American Garou (the Pure Ones). It all ended very badly for the Native American tribes (the Wendigo and the Uktena tribes of Garou). One American tribe of Garou (the Croatan) ended up dying out completely in an act of self-sacrifice to try and stop the Wyrm from eating everything. The Corax, again, tried to warn and give information, but for the most part, they sat out of this one.
- Norse mythology and Irish mythology speak very well of ravens. Odin had Hugin and Munin to bring him the news every morning. The Morrigan has her unkindnesses of ravens. For that reason, the Get of Fenris tribe and the Fianna tribe of Garou get on really well with Coraxes. The Uktena and the Wendigo both recognise Raven as a trickster spirit, one who stole the light of the sun to bring to humanity. So they also get on well with Coraxes.
The rest of the Corax history really doesn’t come up all that often in game play. Just know about the three bits above, and you should do fine as a newbie.
What are the Duties of a Corax?
In a nutshell, the duties of a Corax are to gather information from every source available to them, remember it, then pass it along to whoever needs to know. All else that they do supports this.
- Travel the Umbra. What is the Umbra? It’s the spirit world. It’s a reflection of reality that’s a bit warped and reflects the spiritual nature of the real side. Coraxes are very, very good at traveling the Umbra. Their wings let them fly pretty much anywhere and everywhere, while other breeds have to walk. Eventually, as a newbie, you WILL want to learn more about the Umbra, but it’s so vast, so huge and so complex, that it’s not unreasonable for your Corax to not know very much. More information about the Umbra is down below.
- Drink the eyes of the dead. Yes, ravens eat eyes, and so do the Coraxes. For them, it is an ingrained, almost instinctive process that is neither a Rite nor a Gift. It is just part of who they are, and drinking the eyes of the dead is something that Coraxes take very seriously. Drinking the eyes of the dead allows the Corax to see visions of the last moments of that dead person. Every time, the Corax must ask permission of the corpse’s spirit to take the eyes, and they MUST BE POLITE when doing it. Without giving proper respect, the spirit is likely to refuse, and you’ve failed in your duty to attain the last moments and remember the dead man properly. Drink from the right eye, and they see the good in his death. Drink from the left, and they see the bad. (Alternating right and left eyes between corpses is highly recommended so you don’t go batshit insane from too much good or too much bad.) Most Coraxes can only drink from one eye, and then that’s it. Even if they drink from the other eye, they get nothing. There is, however, a merit called Double Draught that allows the Corax to drink and receive visions from both eyes. Drinking the eyes of the dead is pretty much a sacred duty that even the youngest fledgling takes on, and not doing it is an insult and likely to get you in eventual trouble.
- Pay your respects to Raven and to Helios. The Coraxes don’t do what the Garou do. The Garou will pay respect to just about every spirit in creation; they have totemic spirits that guard their tribes, they have totemic spirits for their packs, they revere Gaia, Luna (the Moon), their ancestors, machine spirits, plant spirits, etc etc. The Coraxes give most of their reverence to their racial Totem spirit Raven (the progenitor of them all, who bids them to share their secrets with him by whispering everything they learn up into the air for him to hear) and to Helios (the Sun, who gives them a good portion of their powers and allows them to advance in rank and renown). No Corax wants to piss off Raven or Helios. It’s just really, really bad.
- Bear witness and learn. Everyone and everything has a story. It falls to the Corax to watch, learn, and remember.
- Share everything you know and teach those who need to learn. It also falls to the Corax to share everything they’ve seen and learned. Corax are also expected to teach those who need to learn their lessons, like the Garou who might be about to do something stupid and earth-shattering again. Sometimes, teaching those lessons can run some high risks for the Corax, but as the sons and daughters of a Trickster Spirit (Raven, of course), the Corax should be clever enough to teach those lessons without getting caught and thrown into a werewolf’s stew pot.
- Don’t break the Veil. The Veil is this ostentatious term for the secrecy that shrouds the world of magic and shapeshifters from the minds of normal, mortal men and women. If humanity were to learn about shapeshifters, it could mean doom doom doom for the shapeshifters, and no one wants that. Think mobs of angry people armed with semiautomatic weapons and tanks coming after you. Not good. What threatens the Veil? Shapeshifting where someone could see you, using obvious and flashy Gifts where someone could see you… Basically, just use common sense, and you’ll be fine.
What are Gifts and What Kinds Do We Have?
Gifts are like super powers. Instant spells. They are learned from the spirits, and they almost always require Gnosis (your spiritual energy) or Rage (your spiritual wrath) to be used. Each Gift does something differently, and you can get a description of what the Gift does and how to use it by typing +explain <giftname> while logged into the MUX.
Most of the Gifts that Coraxes learn tend to enhance their abilities to see, hear or scout out information. They also have Gifts that allow them to slip around and into places unseen, bypass locks, or make a speedy escape. Pretty much anything you’d expect a thief or a scout to be able to do, they can do it.
What you won’t find a lot of are Gifts that enhance their combat abilities. As mentioned above, Coraxes pretty much suck at combat. So they avoid it at all costs. In nature, you’ll find that ravens have a tendency to find weak or dead animals, then come back to croak and caw at the wolves, leading them back to the easy kill or the dead body. Then the ravens feast on the scraps once the wolves are done tearing open the carcasses. That sort of dynamic in nature transfers over to the Coraxes and Garou. The Corax generally seek out the enemies of Gaia, then come back to inform the Garou, so that the Garou can come in and wipe out those enemies.
You can get a list of all of the gifts available to you by typing +explain/list gifts/mine on the MUX. Chances are, if you’re reading this guide, you’re playing a level 1 Corax, so you can pick any three Gifts off of that list for your character during chargen. It is highly recommended that you pick Spirit Speech, Voice of the Mimic or Enemy Ways, as these will likely be the most useful to a new Corax and are some of the most commonly-taught Gifts. It is not enforced in code or by staff, but corvid-born Corax also tend to learn Raven’s Gleaning or Scent of the True Form. Homid-born Corax tend to learn Open Seal or Persuasion.
It should also be noted that Corax (although they generally deny this when the Garou ask) have the ability to learn Garou Gifts. Being the ultimate spies and thieves, they long ago cracked the Garou code of getting those Gifts, while the Garou still can’t learn the Corax gifts. As a newbie, you won’t have any of those Garou Gifts… yet. But you can later learn them.
What are Rites and What Kinds Do We Have?
If Gifts are like insta-super powers, then the Rites are extended rituals that have various effects which are sometimes subtle and can be powerful. Newbies are not expected to know many Rites, especially not the Rites that are considered high-powered and important to Corax society. As a newbie, you probably haven’t earned the trust it takes to actually find someone to teach you those Corax-only Rites, but you’re also a spy. You could learn some of the Garou’s Rites just by parking your ass in a tree and watching them do their thing. A lot of the Rites practiced by Garou are also practiced by Corax.
If you’re new, you’re going to want to take a score of 1 or 2 dots in the Rituals ability, and in chargen, you might consider purchasing the Rites background so you can start out with a few right out of the approval gate. You can also just buy Rites outright with XP after approval. When it comes time, pick a few level 1 Rites, maybe a couple of Minor Rites, or a single level 2 Rite. The following rites are most likely to have been taught to newbie Coraxes: Greet the Sun (minor Rite), Bone Rhythms (minor Rite), Rite of Cleansing (level 1), Rite of Contrition (level 1), Talisman Dedication (level 1), The Questing Stone (level 1), Eyes of the Flock (level 2), Rite of the Sun’s Bright Ray (level 2).
You can get a description of each Rite and how it works by typing +explain <rite name> while on the MUSH.
What’s our Relationship with the Umbra?
The Coraxes have a pretty intimate relationship with the Umbra (the spirit world). In fact, some of them grow to love it so much that they fly off into its depths and are not really seen again, except for the occasional cryptic message left here and there, and the other Coraxes call those lost souls the Sun-Lost. The only shapeshifting race that has better and closer ties to the Umbra are the Nuwisha (were-coyotes, who are another race of trickster shifters).
The reason that Coraxes know the Umbra so well is because of their ability to fly. Garou have to walk very carefully and follow Moon Bridges or Moon Paths, but the wereravens don’t. They just fly where they need to go, and their deep need for exploration and poking into secrets means that they know a lot that the Garou don’t. They have found a lot of safe paths for themselves, have found some hidey-holes to bolt to when the heat’s on, and they often leave markers and sigils (called waysigns) to signal to other Coraxes when there’s danger or safety ahead.
Young Coraxes are not expected to know a whole lot, but they should know a thing or two. They’ll have traveled the Umbra to some degree, enough to justify maybe one or two dots in the Umbral Maps background. It’s entirely feasible that they don’t know more than that…. Yet. A lot of learning the lay of the Umbra can be done ICly by following the Garou around or asking someone to help GM scenes for you that take you into the Umbra. Or you can ask older, more experienced Coraxes for some teaching.
But here are some things your character, even as a newbie, is likely to know about the Umbra:
- The Gauntlet. This thing is a pain in the butt. Before you can even enter the Umbra, you have to pierce the Gauntlet. It’s a mystical, sometimes powerful barrier that stops every Tom, Dick and Harry spirit or being from freely crossing in and out. Once you exert enough strength of spirit to get through the Gauntlet, then you can cross through and enter the Umbra. The Gauntlet is pretty weak in wilderness areas and really, really strong in areas where there is a lot of technology and urban development.
- In order to pierce the Gauntlet and cross over, you need a mirror or a puddle of water or some sort of reflective material. Something reflective acts like a magical gateway. Exert your strength of spirit, push into the mirror, and just keep going on through to the other side (if you are actually strong enough to pierce the Gauntlet). ICly, it’s like pushing into jello or thick molasses. Sometimes, it happens quickly. Sometimes, it’s painfully slow. And yes, you can get stuck. That can be embarrassing, not to mention potentially very painful.
- There are a lot of Realms in the Umbra and a lot of layers. It’s big, vast, complex, and some of those Realms completely defy the laws of conventional physics to impose their own laws on reality. A lot of those Realms are extremely dangerous too and should be avoided.
- You have probably traversed the Penumbra more often than not. This is the layer of the Umbra that is closest to Earth, looks vaguely like Earth, and is more or less a spiritual reflection of that area of the Earth where you entered. For example, if you entered the Umbra from a city street in Detroit, you’re probably going to regret it. The negative amounts of spiritual energy are so vast that the Penumbra is likely to be horribly dark, horribly dangerous, and crawling with nasty spiritual monsters that want to corrupt and destroy you. Furthermore, the only things that will show up in the Penumbra from earth-side are things which have a lot of spiritual energy or things that have been around a long time. So ancient trees and old, old buildings will show up in the Penumbra, but newer buildings, cars, or people walking by will not.
- The Near Umbra is another layer, beyond the Penumbra, that your newbie Corax may have visited a few times. This is the part of the Umbra where you can find a lot of other, swirling realms to visit (most notably the Thirteen Near Realms, where you probably have not gone and may have heard only rumours about. Don’t worry about the Near Realms. Most of them are nasty places to visit, and you can always find out more information about them later through gameplay). It’s a hazy place, farther away from Earth, and the Garou have to walk Moon Bridges here. But you’re a Corax. So you can just fly to wherever you want to go, because you’re badass like that.
What Kinds of Backgrounds Do Coraxes Have?
So now that you know some general information about Coraxes, it’s time to focus more on your character’s personal history.
- You were born either as a human (homid breed) or you were hatched as a raven chick (corvid breed). Very shortly after your birth/hatching (we’re talking days afterwards here), another Corax performed a Rite called the Rite of the Fetish Egg to transform you into a future Corax. This Rite ripped off a part of your Corax parent’s soul, bound it to yours, and made a little spiritual Egg in the Umbra that incubated while you had your childhood/fledglinghood. Upon reaching maturity, that Egg hatched, and you had your First Change. This is how all Coraxes are made. It is a spiritual process rather than a natural or genetic one. Your Corax parent, whoever he or she was, is also not the same breed as you are. Meaning that if you are human-born, your Corax parent was raven-born, and vice versa. That’s just the way Raven designed it to be. No exceptions. With some finaggling and crossbreeding, it’s possible your Corax parent is also your biological parent. But probably not. Also, a lot of other Coraxes know about you. Your Egg had a Guardian, who might have been your Corax parent, and who might not have been. But your Egg was guarded, and you were not some misbegotten orphan who slipped through the cracks. Coraxes keep an eye on their Eggs, protect them fanatically, and are ready to pretty much lay down their lives for the sake of their fledglings. They’re too precious to be lost.
- Your childhood was marked by needing to know things. Be it a love of learning, being incredibly nosy, or fascinated by the world around you, children and fledglings destined to become Coraxes are already touched by Raven’s curiosity. Throughout the years, they receive that spiritual energy in their Egg in small doses, until the hatching and the First Change hits, at which point the rest of that spiritual energy floods them in one last, big rush. Throughout your childhood, ravens probably came in to check on you, see how you were doing. Some of the Kin may have even prepared you for the inevitable with some teaching and warnings.
- The First Change probably happened at just a random ass moment. It could have been triggered by intense emotion – intense rage, terror and a need to escape, or a glorious EUREKA moment – but like any chick hatching from an egg, it just happened when it was ready to do so. At that moment, the hatching of the Egg would have been heard by your Guardian in the Umbra, who probably flew to safeguard your egg from predators and then came to see you when you finished your freak-out at having transformed for the first time. For a human, this happened in your late teens, after hitting puberty. For a raven, this happened around 8 to 10 months of age.
- You got one year of teaching from the Coraxes while you were a Corax fledgling. That’s it. Just one year. Coraxes don’t believe in a rigid mentoring system either. You’re a raven. You already have a natural love of learning, so you were expected to mainly take care of yourself. Your Guardian/Corax parent/substitute parent/group of older, friendly Coraxes were there to help you along, answer questions, and show you some of the ropes.
- After your year of teaching, you probably went to a Parliament (a grand meeting of craptons of Coraxes, see more info below) and got recognised by Helios as an Oviculum (a rank one Corax). And that is probably where you are now with your character.
Some other things to note:
- Please don’t create a fledgling character unless you have a mentor of some sort lined up to take care of you, be it a PC or an NPC. (Then again, if you’re taking an NPC Corax mentor, you probably don’t NEED this guide, because you should already know this information and more to be able to play a mentor). Just play an Oviculum. You’re still young enough to be ignorant of a lot of things, so you’re young enough to get some teaching, but you’re also not forcing PCs to step up and play Teach and Safeguard the Fledgie because Corax society would have a Guardian lined up for a fledgling. You’re still independent and master of your own self as an Oviculum.
- Coraxes do not have high amounts of Rage (spiritual wrath that makes humans uncomfortable), so it’s entirely possible your Corax has a job. These are more likely to be freelance or courier-types of jobs though, ones that let you do a lot of travelling and working on your own schedule. Some suggestions are: bike courier, messenger, investigative reporter/journalist, freelance blogger/writer, or a private detective.
- Remember that gold hurts, and it hurts bad. It’s painful to touch unless you’re in your breed form (ie, you’re in homid form if you were born a human), and it will drain your Gnosis. You aren’t keeping gold jewellery. But you’re probably keeping silver somewhere, since it’s damn useful against most of the other shapeshifters. Why is this? It’s because of their ties to Helios, the Sun. Garou, with their ties to Luna, are vulnerable to silver.
- Coraxes are individuals. There are no set rules for your personality. They are wonderfully unique and diverse, coming from all sorts of backgrounds. While they generally tend to dress in black or go for a goth style, they all don’t do that. Some are a bit bonkers, some are irascible, some are friendly and open, and some are very bitter. The only thing they all have in common is a deep, unabashed NEED to KNOW STUFF.
- Remember not to break the Veil, and that if you are in your war form (Crinos!) you can cause Delirium in any normal, mundane humans who see you (Kinfolk are immune to the Delirium, being family). Delirium is an insanity that’s genetically programmed in humans since their caveman days. Whenever they see a shapeshifter in Crinos, they go batshit crazy with terror or an urge to destroy you. They often don’t remember much when you drop the war form and the Delirium passes, but that’s not always the case. If the human has high amounts of Willpower, they can actually remember you, and that’s bad news for your continued existence.
- There are no tribes among the Corax, however, there are subcultures (I prefer to regard them as factions). There are quite a few of them too, and if you want to incorporate them into your background for a bit of advanced personalising, feel free. More information can be found below.
What are Corax Subcultures?
Coraxes don’t have tribes. They don’t split apart information and keep it secret or special among certain, elite groups of ravens. There isn’t one group that can only drink the eyes of the dead, while another can only call upon Helios’ special favour. The ravens share everything and anything, because they believe that information needs to be spread around to everyone.
Nevertheless, there are certain groups among them that the books call subcultures, but are pretty much factions of Coraxes. They band together for awhile, to fulfill certain purposes or because they have similar interests and goals. That doesn’t mean that these Coraxes all work very closely together the way Garou work in packs, but it means that they’ll have contacts, friends, and allies among their own subculture. They might hang out together, swap information and gossip with other members of their subculture, before flying off to go do their own thing for awhile. Not all Coraxes join a subculture; in fact, most of them don’t.
The main subcultures are listed below:
- Chasers — Young, brash Coraxes who band together for only a year or two before getting sick of each other and drifting off again. These trouble squads actively seek out danger in the worst places in order to report it… or try to handle it themselves.
- Gulls of Battle — This name was bequeathed to this group of Coraxes by the Vikings, and the Gulls spend their time looking for epic stories, forgotten lore, and ancient knowledge. They are also heavily drawn to battlefields, where they may drink the eyes of the dead to their heart’s content.
- Hermetic Order of Swift Light — An extremely lucrative courier service, based in New York City, that caters to the needs of the supernatural. They handle delicate deliveries like transporting klaives (fancy-pants fetish swords), secrets, hostages, whatever. By tradition, only one Corax formally leads and works in the Corporation, but dozens of Coraxes work for the HOSL on a freelance basis.
- Leshy — Composed of mainly corvids, these Coraxes are from Russia who mainly keep to the deep, dark forests. They’re renowned tricksters, typically bald and missing one ear in homid form, and are pretty damn paranoid.
- The Morrigan — There are only three Morrigan in the world, and they are always women. That’s it. Only three. The Morrigan are Coraxes who serve Raven’s less pleasant aspect by becoming one of the Morrigan’s faces. Upon taking her new position of power, the Corax takes a new name and loses all of her personality that she had been before. She becomes a living embodiment of the Morrigan. The Morrigan only show up when a terrible battle is about to take place.
- Murder’s Daughters — Young Corax women who are Morrigan-wannabes. These girls all want to be the Morrigan someday, which is ironic because no Daughter of Murder has ever been chosen to be part of the Morrigan yet. But these girls all try to be badass and violent, starting fights and getting into trouble. Sometimes they pull off being badass. Sometimes, they don’t.
- The Sun-Lost — These Coraxes have grown weary of the world and flown off into the Umbra, to take in the beauty of the spiritual landscapes. They have turned their backs on Helios, often laying down their messages, their secrets (sometimes their Eggs too), and they are rarely ever seen or heard from again. But sometimes, a message is left behind from one of the Sun-Lost, often in the form of scratched sigils and waysigns in the Umbra.
- Tulugaq — Born (or hatched) from Native American stock, the Tulugaq are the epitome of the trickster Raven. Most of the time, they work and play with the Nuwisha (the werecoyotes who are also tricksters), doing their damnedest to pull pranks, teach lessons, and generally have a good time while getting their jobs done. It takes awhile for the Tulugaq to open up to non-Native Americans, but when they do, they’re as talkative as the rest of the Coraxes.
What Are the Enemies of a Corax?
Even as a newbie, you’re bound to have run into some trouble, even if you had an older Corax or some strong Kinfolk looking out for your ass and taking care of that trouble for you. The main source of trouble for a Corax (or any shapeshifter, really) is someone or something that has been corrupted by the Wyrm.
The Wyrm is a member of the Triat, three entities of creation so powerful that they’re like three gods. The Triat, in whole, are the Weaver, Wyld and Wyrm. Back in the early dawn of time, the Weaver was a force of order that shaped creation, the Wyld was a force of chaos that created pure matter or energy, and the Wyrm destroyed the old so that the Wyld could provide new which the Weaver shaped again. It was balanced, and it was good. Then shit went crazy, or rather, the Corax believe the Weaver went crazy, trapped the Wyrm in her spider’s webs, which drove the Wyrm crazy, and then the Wyrm started corrupting everything with evil.
The reality of it is somewhat more complex than that, but hey. As a newbie, you won’t know much more than that.
So there are mostly four types of enemies to be on the lookout for:
- Banes. These are Wyrm-spirits and they are nasty. Most often, they’re found in the Umbra, but sometimes they’ll manifest on earth and wreak havoc. They are things like the spirits of Smog, spirits of agony, spirits of pollution, spirits of torture. You probably haven’t handled too many of these, being new. You probably had to go tell the Garou so they could send in their warriors and mages (Theurges) to handle them for you.
- Black Spiral Dancers. What’s even scarier than a Garou hopped up on Rage and ready to kill? A Wyrm-corrupted Garou hopped up on Rage and ready to kill! And that is what a Black Spiral Dancer is (often abbreviated as BSD). If you saw one of these, and if you’re still alive, you probably flew or ran the Hell away and told your nearest, local Garou about the BSD you spotted. Let them handle these guys.
- Fomori. These are Wyrm-corrupted humans who are, usually, beyond any hope of rescue or redemption. They’re monsters, rotten to the core, who often have their own super powers like vomiting streams of acid worms or shooting poison tentacles out of their asses. Real charming group of folks, these are. You might have been able to handle taking care of a weaker one of these things yourself.
- Hunters. Normal people can be scary too. You don’t have to be Wyrm-corrupted to want to kill off shapeshifters, even if it helps. But there are some Hunters out there who are normal people or Kinfolk who’ve gone rogue and want to wipe out EVERY trace of Bad Shit on the planet, and that includes you. So be careful about who sees you doing your Raven-Induced Badassery.
What do Coraxes Think About Everyone Else?
The important thing to remember is that Coraxes are individuals. They think what they like. However, there are some general stereotypes that can be found among them that you can use as a starting point. As a Corax, you’ve probably heard about all of the other supernatural types out there in the general Michigan area and gathered some opinions. Feel free to ignore most of this section if you want to learn from the ground up, so to speak, but it’s advised you at least read up on the Garou. You’re pretty likely to have met a few Garou by the time you reach Oviculum.
These are all the shapeshifters who aren’t wolves. Corax are a type of Fera too.
- Ananasi – The werespiders. These guys are amazingly good at hiding, so they don’t show up very often, but when they do, it’s usually trouble. The Ananasi are unlike every other shifter type in that they aren’t tied to Gaia but to the Weaver. They’re also rumoured to be corrupted by the Wyrm, there’s some weird metaphysical crap going on with their Spider Queen, Ananasa, and most Corax just don’t trust them much at all. Anywhere you’ve seen a spider is somewhere an Ananasi could be.
- Bastet – The werecats. There are nine different tribes of these guys, but in Michigan, you’re only likely to run into the Pumonca (pumas and cougars) and the Qualmi (lynxes). The others? The Khan (tigers), Simba (lions), and all the rest? They’re off in other countries and just don’t matter as much. If you really want to know more about them, read their breed book. The Pumonca are extremely isolationist in nature, have strong ties to their native lands, and know much about it. The Qualmi are incorrigible riddlers. They are sly tricksters among the cats, and they have fairly close ties to the Gurahl (werebears) and Wendigo (a tribe of Garou). Corax and Bastet have a somewhat antagonistic relationship, as you might expect. On the one side, you have birds. On the other, you have cats. One group was made to chatter about every secret they find, and the other group was made to keep every secret they find. Needless to say, Corax take a somewhat dim view of the Bastet, the supposed Eyes and Ears of Gaia. The Bastet are arrogant cusses with a superiority complex and a distinct lack of perspective.
- Gurahl – The werebears. Most of the shapeshifting world believes the Gurahl to be extinct, but some people know better… like the Corax! The Gurahl are actually hibernating… Those that survived, anyway. Their numbers were greatly diminished during the Wars of Rage, and right now, they’re all in hiding from the Garou, sleeping until… Well, no one really knows when they’ll wake up. The Corax get on pretty well with the Gurahl, as they’re generally slow to anger and have their acts together.
- Nuwisha – The werecoyotes. These guys are tricksters and pranksters, one and all, the chosen sons and daughters of Old Man Coyote. Corax and Nuwisha get on GREAT but have slightly different priorities. Coraxes will play pranks if they teach a lesson, because the lesson and the teaching are their priority. Nuwisha will play pranks for the sheer joy of playing a prank, and if it teaches a lesson, that’s good too. So Coraxes and Nuwisha are kind of like BFFFs… Best Freakin’ Fratboy Friends.
- Ratkin – The wererats. As above, so below? Not quite. The Corax and the Ratkin have a few things in common. They like to poke their beaks/noses into dark places, to see things which most others don’t see. But the Corax also know there’s something rotten in the sewers, and it isn’t the crap. They’re twitchy and more than a little crazy, and the sheer number of them is going to one day spell out a bad, nasty surprise for the Garou.
The furry wolves! If ever there was a race that is the epitome of ‘a person is smart, but people are dumb,’ then it would be the Garou. The Corax generally shake their heads at the Garou. They could defeat the Wyrm if they just worked together, if they stopped squabbling and trying to kill everyone else. So while some Coraxes don’t trust them and don’t want to deal much with them, many Coraxes see the Garou as the best hope this planet has, and so they try to teach the wolves what they need to know to get it done. Gaia help them all.
There are multiple tribes of Garou out there, and the Corax, naturally, have opinions about them all.
- Black Furies – Amazon warrioresses. Most of the Garou tend to think of them as Feminazis, and the Corax know there are a few of those kinds out there, especially among the younger ones. But there’s a lot of good that the Black Furies do for the female half of humanity, and sadly, their work is still needed in many parts of the world. These ladies deserve some respect.
- Bone Gnawers – Scrappy junkyard wolves. They do a lot of digging through the trash and see into the dark places, and some of them are pretty cozy with the Ratkin. On the whole, they’re a good bunch of people, but they’re a motley crew if ever there was one. Some work to better the lives of the homeless, some are rat bastards (haha) and cowards, and some are not much better than domestic terrorists.
- Children of Gaia – Hippies. So nice. They’re just… so nice. They’re gentle, they’re kind, they’re compassionate, and they just want everyone to get along. The only criticism that the Corax generally have about the Coggies is that they’re so disorganized that they’re not getting anything worthwhile done. But seriously. They’re nice.
- Fianna – Historically Irish faerie-lovers. The best and the worst of the Garou, right here. They’re loud, boisterous, noisy, and they spend a lot of time fighting with each other. But they are also loud, boisterous, noisy and if you are one of them, man, you are theirs. The Corax get on pretty well with Fianna in general, because the Fianna tend to listen to the Corax when they talk. The ravens belong to Morrigu, after all, and the Fianna have some serious reverence for the Morrigu.
- Get of Fenris – Vikings! Bust out the mead! It’s a rare Get who doesn’t know about Huginn and Munin, the two ravens who belong to Odin, and because of that, the Get will frequently pack with Raven as their totem, and they have quite a lot of respect for the Corax. As for the Corax, well, they know better than to argue with the Get, and they’ve enjoyed a long-standing partnership with them. The Corax find the enemy, and the Get make the enemies into bodies. Good times, good times!
- Glass Walkers – Urban wolves with guns and gadgets. All in all, a fairly neutral relationship with these guys. The Corax admire what the Glass Walkers can do with technology, but … there’s something a little bit worrisome about how cozy they are with the Weaver.
- Red Talons – Genocidal wolves in the wild. If it was born on two legs, the Red Talons hate it. Coraxes will bring them information about the enemy so they can go kill it, but in general, they don’t do small talk. Interacting with them is much like interacting with… wild wolves. Call them over, let them do their thing, and nip the tails and ears of cubs.
- Shadow Lords – Dark, shadowy, manipulative thunderwolves. They all belong to Grandfather Thunder, who has in his employ all the Stormcrow spirits and some Rogue Raven spirits (guys who ditched Raven to follow him). So for that reason, Coraxes get some respect from Shadow Lords. They like how we bring them information. They respect our spying. Coraxes, in turn, dooooon’t quite trust them so much. Something’s not quite right with these guys, and the Coraxes worry.
- Silent Striders – Wandering wolves bereft of their homelands, haunted by ghosts. Coraxes and Striders get on pretty well. They don’t often travel together, but when they do, it’s often worth it for all the things a Corax will learn. Just beware of the ghosts that seem to flock to a Strider like fleas to a dog.
- Silver Fangs – The once-regal, ruling tribe of werewolves. Coraxes view the Silver Fangs as a tragedy. They were once great. They were once shining leaders who managed to keep everyone in line, but those days are long gone. The Silver Fangs are just a shadow of what they used to be, but no one seems to know what to do about it. There’s some pity and head-shaking for these guys, in general.
- Uktena – Mystically-inclined werewolves of Native American or minority stock. Cooperation happens between the Coraxes and the Uktena quite frequently, especially when something magical’s involved. At best, their relationships are friendly. At worst, it’s mutual respect.
- Wendigo – Harsh, bitter Native American wolves of the north. Many of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest and the Arctic revere Raven as a trickster, the spirit who brought the sun to humanity, and so there is often a great deal of respect accorded to the Coraxes. In turn, the Coraxes respect the Wendigo and look out for their well-being, but man, do they wish the Wendigo would put the past behind them already. It’s time to look to the future.
There are more than just shapeshifters out there. In the World of Darkness, there’s… a lot of darkness.
- Changelings – Beautiful and terrifying creatures that are half-faerie, half-mortal. There are so many kinds. You have the Kithain which are descended from European faeries – the Sidhe, the Satyrs, the Redcaps – and then you have the Nunnehi who are Native American faeries, and there are Inanimae – the spirits of plants, rocks, water and all that. There are probably more too. A lot of people manage not to notice them, but the Coraxes notice, and they pay attention. Changelings are a pretty mixed bag. Some they want to know, others they want to watch from a safe distance, but in general, no Corax wants to be responsible for the death of more magic in the world, and Coraxes believe they’re worth their while.
- Fallen – Demons inhabiting the bodies of humans. Yes, they do exist, and yes, the Coraxes know. How they fit into the whole of Creation, with Gaia and the Triat, though… That’s something that’s often debated. Theories abound. But what the Coraxes know is that they are exceedingly dangerous. While some might be seeking redemption, they are all best avoided. Something about them inspires instant fear, distrust, or a frenzied Rage in the hearts of shapeshifters.
- Mages – Humans capable of rewriting reality with magic. Oh, so arrogant much of the time. The Traditionalists get on better with the Coraxes than the Technocrats, that’s for damn sure. None of the wereravens appreciate getting classified as a reality deviant and trying to get destroyed. Some of the Mages of the Traditions – Dreamspeakers and Verbena, in general – get on pretty well with Coraxes. Hermetics are known for being arrogant as Hell. Hanging out with a Mage is generally a very dangerous prospect, so it’s advised that the Coraxes keep their distance, but partnerships do happen on occasion.
- Vampires – Blood-drinking undead who like convoluted schemes. In general, the Coraxes are the enemies of the vampires. Probably not a surprise. Coraxes are creatures of Helios, the Sun, while vampires are pretty much anything but. Add to that the fact that when vampires lose enough of their humanity, they start reeking of the Wyrm. So Coraxes keep their distance, keep a watchful eye out, and if things start looking real bad, they go and tell the Garou about it. And if a vampire ever Embraces a Corax? It spells guaranteed death for that Corax. No exceptions.
What About the Corax Kin?
All shapeshifters have Kin, and the Coraxes are no exception. Their Kin are found among the humans and the ravens in the world. What makes Kin different from the Shifters is that the Kin will NEVER shapeshift into a different form. If they were born human, they will stay human all their lives. If they were hatched raven or born wolf, they will stay as animals all their lives.
More information can be found in the Corax Kin Guide.
Useful Terms to Know
- Ales: The term for a rank three Corax, one who’s been around the block awhile and is going to be expected to help teach the younger ones.
- Buzzard. Also known as a Scab. Where the Garou have Black Spiral Dancers, the Corax have Buzzards. These unfortunate, corrupted Coraxes had their Fetish Eggs stolen from their Guardians, the spiritual ties broken with the original, intended recipient, then rebound to another human infant through a twisted ceremony called the Rite of the Broken Wing. The result induces an instant First Change in the infant, snapping its sanity, and the Buzzard is usually raised in Malfeas (Wyrmy Hell) or by Black Spiral Dancer Kinfolk. Buzzards are always deformed in some way, completely demented, and are trained as spies and assassins.
- Corvus. The term for a rank five, or elder, Corax. These guys are rare, cause most shapeshifters get killed before they can reach the rank of Elder.
- Delirium: The insanity that humans experience upon seeing a shapeshifter in his or her Crinos form. Coraxes can cause the Delirium while in Crinos, though it’s not as intense as it would be if a Garou did the same. That insanity manifests as terror or an urge to destroy your ass (even if you do look so ridiculous in Crinos that logically, you’d think they’d piss themselves laughing to see you).
- Fledgling: A baby Corax. Dawwww.
- Gaia: The name of the Earth, the mother of all living things and the creator of the shapeshifters. She is dying, and because she is dying, the Apocalypse is nigh.
- Helios: The name of the Sun. He’s one of the two big bosses for the Coraxes, also known as one of the Celestines (one of the most powerful spirits in existence).
- Kinfolk: Humans that have shapeshifter blood in them but aren’t shapeshifters themselves. They’re family, and generally, they’re more stable than the shapeshifters and are often the go-betweens for them and the mundane, human world. The Garou are notoriously reliant on Kin, and many of the tribes are abusive. Coraxes are more independent. They can steal their own crap to support themselves, after all, or can scavenge easily for food, even in cities. But Kin are important, because only their souls can be bound to a Fetish Egg, and if all the ravens in the world die out, the Coraxes will die out too. Corax Kin can be played as characters, and they often share the same curiosity that Coraxes have, often acting as informants.
- Luna: The name of the Moon. She’s closely tied to the Garou, who follow her rather fanatically, second only to Gaia. She is one of the Celestines. Coraxes respect her, but don’t really have much to do with her.
- Neocornix: Still kind of new for a Corax, but getting some experience. This is a rank two Corax.
- Oviculum: You’re still fresh out of the egg. But this is another word for a rank one Corax.
- Parliament: Every once in awhile (maybe once a year or so?), all the Coraxes get together in a big ass tree during the day, and they talk about Corax business. The higher-ranked you are, the higher up in the tree you get to perch. You get to crap on the lower-ranking Coraxes. Fun! These Parliaments begin at sunrise and end at sunset, at which point all the Coraxes fly around in one last, raucous burst of cawing to praise Helios, then head down to the ground for more socialising, usually in a bar or five. Coraxes can rise or fall in rank at a Parliament, which is all arbitrated by Helios.
- Raven: The Totem spirit of every Corax, one of the Incarna (a really high-ranking, powerful spirit), who grants the wereravens a lot of their powers and demands secrets in return.
- Renown: How famous you are among the Coraxes. Coraxes favour Wisdom first and foremost. Then they go for Honour, and lastly, Glory. The more renown you have, the higher you can rise in rank. For more information, go read the Renown page.
- Umbra: The spirit world. It’s full of layers and realms, and it’s generally dangerous.
- Volucris: The word for a rank four Corax. If you reach this rank, you’re going to be expected to teach. A lot.
- Weaver: The Weaver is one of the three main forces of the universe, a member of the Triat, even stronger than Gaia. Often personified as female, the Coraxes believe she has gone completely insane, imprisoned the Wyrm (which drove HIM insane), and is mainly responsible for shaping the creative power of the Wyld into the world and into spirits.
- Wyld: One of the other three main forces of the universe, a member of the Triat, the Wyld is pure, chaotic creativity.
- Wyrm: The last of the three main forces of the universe, a member of the Triat. The Wyrm was the destroyer, who upheld balance through destruction, allowing new life to come forth. He has gone insane, thanks to the Weaver’s imprisonment, and now he is corrupted with hate and evil.
Miscellaneous Facts About Ravens
Perhaps you want to play a corvid-born Corax. Maybe you want a character with the Birdlike Mannerisms flaw (see the +explain entry on the MUX for what this does). Or maybe you just want your Corax character to appear experienced and knowledgeable about his Kinfolk. Listed below are some miscellaneous factoids about ravens gathered from across the Internet for easy, quick reference.
- Ravens are some of the most intelligent of animal species. They are adept problem-solvers and have an understanding of cause and effect. A study done in Wyoming discovered that during hunting season, the sound of a gunshot draws ravens in to investigate a presumed carcass, whereas the birds ignore sounds that are just as loud but harmless, such as an airhorn or a car door slamming.
- In the wild, ravens will frequently find weak or dead animals and call to attract the attention of wolves or other large predators, who will follow them, tear open the carcasses and feast. The ravens, being too weak to rip open the carcasses, wait until the larger predators leave and then eat the remaining scraps.
- They are omnivorous and very opportunistic. Ravens will eat just about anything they come across, including: carrion, insects, fish, berries, grains, small animals, and human trash. They’ve been known to attack and sometimes kill livestock, especially young kids, calves and lambs.
- Ravens mate for life. Juveniles may take up to two to three years to bond with a mate, and they will engage in all manner of courtship dances, including a head-bobbing dance and dramatic aerial flights. Once paired up, the mated ravens will claim territory and defend it, where they nest and raise their young. This isn’t to say they’re completely monogamous. Raven males have been observed visiting a female in her nest while her mate is away and copulating with her. Needless to say, if the mated male comes back to find an intruder with his female, there will be a fight.
- Mated pairs of ravens will work to maintain their close bonds by flying and swooping together through the air, and throughout the year, they’ll often sit side by side, preening each other. During these preening rituals, they’ll make a soft, warbling call called a comfort sound. Nestlings will also make this soft, warbling noise after they’ve been fed. In comparison to their usual raucous call, it’s much gentler and much more soothing.
- Juvenile ravens are some of the most playful of all bird species. They’ll play catch-me-if-you-can with other animals, like wolves or dogs, nipping at tails and then quickly fluttering away. They play in flight, with wild aerial stunts, or interlock talons with other ravens in flight. They are one of the few animals who will make their own toys, breaking off sticks to play with each other, and they’ll go sliding down snowbanks or play tricks on people by pushing snow onto their heads.
- Ravens will open their beaks and interlock them as a gesture of affection, the way humans hold hands.
- Crows migrate, but ravens do not. However, they have been known to travel more than 185 miles (300k) in a year. Nevertheless, ravens are Federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, making it illegal to hunt, capture, kill or keep ravens without a special permit. This includes live or dead birds, their eggs, feathers and nests.
Anatomy and Physiology
- The only way to reliably tell a male from a female raven is through dissection or DNA testing, although females will sometimes be smaller. They are not sexually dimorphous. Ravens can tell each other apart through behaviour and possibly through their calls or pheromones.
- They do have a very good sense of smell. It may not be as well-developed as a wolf’s, but thinking that a raven (or many other birds) is nose-blind is a misconception.
- Raven bones, like almost all bird bones, are hollow. Just as a sidenote, flightless birds (like the emu and ostrich) have denser bones. Ravens also have a keeled sternum, to which the flight muscles are attached. Now, these bones may be hollow, but it is a terrible misconception to think of them as weak. Flighted bird bones have to withstand the impact of landing and the rigors of taking off, as well as a whole host of other activities. How do they manage without their bones snapping? The internal structure of a bird’s bone is filled with crisscrossed struts and trusses, which are amazingly resilient and have been mimicked in modern architecture because of its strength. Bone marrow is interspersed around the hollow cavities, and the cavities are often filled with respiratory air sacs.
- The beak of a raven is large and curved, very thickly so when compared to a crow’s, and the maxillary beak (top) is larger than the mandibular beak (bottom), whereas a crow is more equally proportioned. The nasal bristles are larger and longer compared to a crow’s. Ravens also have a neck feather ruff that frequently puffs out as they call.
- Being birds, obviously, ravens do not chew their food. They have salivary glands, and they have a tongue to help them manipulate their food in their beaks, but they have to swallow food whole. From there, the food goes down the esophagus and into the crop (a specialised, enlarged area of the esophagus that stores food till it can pass to the stomach). The stomach has two sections. The first is the proventriculus, which secretes acids and enzymes to begin breaking down food. The second portion is the gizzard, which replaces mammalian teeth in the way it grinds down the food, often with the aid of grit and pebbles the bird has ingested for just that purpose. From there, food passes into the small and long intestines, then it passes as waste into the cloaca and is voided.
- In captivity, common ravens have been known to live for about forty years. In the wild, their lifespan is typically ten to fifteen years, with the longest recorded wild raven living twenty-three years.
- Compared to some other birds, ravens are relatively slow at flying. In the wild, ravens have been recorded at reaching speeds between 22 to 28 miles per hour (about 40 kph), although Corax can fly up to 35 miles per hour under extreme circumstances.
- Female ravens have only one ovary and fallopian tube found on the left side of her body. Male ravens have a pair of testes, which are extremely small until breeding season approaches, at which point they increase dramatically in size. Both of these modifications help to keep body weight low for flight. Fertilization of the female’s eggs takes place via cloacal contact between male and female.
- Ravens are some of the earliest breeding birds. Females will frequently sit on eggs in February, under snowy conditions. They will lay three to seven eggs and incubate them for twenty to twenty-five days. The eggs of Common Ravens are a pale, greenish colour blotched with dark brown spots. Once they hatch, both parents will take care of the chicks. Nestlings fledge at five to seven weeks of age.
- During the winter when the temperatures drop to extreme lows, ravens can raise their resting metabolic rate to help them stay warm.